Dealing with the unusual, in the usual way

How can we equip ourselves for the long haul this is turning out to be?

Liz Robinson Co-Director, Big Education

It has felt like a tough week. Many people have felt fragile, brittle. Stresses have been bubbling up. Too many tough weeks, tough calls and bad news. 

Social media is awash with stories of the challenges on the ground – and much outpouring of support and gratitude to teachers and leaders.

How can we equip ourselves for the long haul this is turning out to be?

I can not help but feel that we need to radically shift our leadership lens. Rather than copying or adapting to the changes and challenges, we need to accept the uncertainties as the new status quo. It sounds like a hackney-ed management consultancy phrase – change is the new normal. 

We already lived in a rapidly changing and evolving world, in technological, social, and environmental respects. But somehow COVID has put us in touch with that reality in a totally new way. What was once the domain of futurologists and change management teams has become mainstream. 

So what does this mean for our leadership mindset?

I was inspired this week by our Trustee, Marion Fanthorpe, who (amongst other things!) worked at a senior level for the Police Force. The mantra she shared was; 

‘dealing with the unusual in the usual way’ 

I love this as it implicitly accepts and normalises the fact that we will be dealing with unusual things. This is so important, as it takes out the drama, which can be such a waste of energy and time. We quickly accept that things are changing and many elements are out of our control – and then get on with dealing with it.

The other message in this is about the importance of a ‘usual way’. This for me speaks to the powerful role that our values and principles play as leaders. They are our guide ropes, our golden thread. Falling back on them gives us the power, potency and bravery to deal with whatever each day presents. In the absence of clarity, they provide a framework and a backstop for our decisions. They protect us and help contain the uncertainty.

So when we next feel a bristle or niggle, or a full on panic coming our way, let’s see if we can take a deep breath, connect back to our core selves as leaders, and deal with it in our usual way. 

With thanks to Nicola Noble for some great chats on this theme this week.


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